Michigan to focus on defensive fundamentals during off week
Three weeks later, defense has become the Wolverines' biggest problem.
With a week off before facing Illinois on Sunday, No. 7 Michigan (22-4, 9-4) has some time to work out the kinks.
"There's been so much slippage, the one or two days we had this past week, it's hard to (improve)," Beilein said after Sunday's win against Penn State. "We're going to get back and really guard some people and play defense. It's harder than you think, when you have so many inexperienced people."
Michigan began the season 20-1 and climbed as high as No. 1 in the country before losing three of its past five games. It didn't suffer any bad losses -- falling at No. 1 Indiana, No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 4 Michigan State -- but has posted some defensive stinkers.
Those struggles surfaced again Sunday, as Michigan had difficulty slowing last-place Penn State (8-17, 0-13). The game was tied at halftime and the Wolverines won by just eight, despite efficient offensive performances from Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas.
The Nittany Lions drove into the paint nearly at will during stretches.
Michigan has stacked up poor defensive performances, but a stretch of six games in 18 days left little time to address those concerns. Now, it has time.
After taking Monday off, the Wolverines will return to practice Tuesday focusing on that end of the court.
"Sometimes just the simplest stuff of the stance, being at the midline, contesting a shot, talking (makes the difference)," Beilein said. "It's a work in progress."
Rest also is key for Michigan, which is depending on five freshmen in its rotation, some of whom seem to be wearing down. Stauskas said he hasn't hit a wall, but fatigue has become more of an issue in recent weeks.
"(The time off is) going to be good because we're going to get a chance to rest a bit," he said. "But at the same time, we're going to get to go back and really practice some things instead of always preparing for other teams.
"This week will definitely be good for just getting back to our core values on defense and stuff like that, and getting some rest as well."
Michigan also has battled some injury, with junior center Jordan Morgan and freshman guard Caris LeVert both battling balky ankles.
The Wolverines are haggard, but hope to use this off time to regroup for the stretch run and a possible Big Ten title chase.
"We feel we can win every game from here on out," Stauskas said. "We just got to keep working, and everything will be OK."
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